Aria amorosa, some fairly tricky note groupings, with 16th 32nd and 8ths in different combos, its only two pages of which I have more or less memorised the first, I am also in the process of learning Allegro by Piani. I like both tu es which is good enough reason for me to learn them, they also are helping with my timing and reading more complicated pieces, I have recently started learning three octave scales as well, which is improving my intonation, and shifting, at which I need the practice.
took me about five weeks up to now, but i am also learning loads of fiddle tunes so dont spend more than a couple of minuteson the baroque tunes, which i play at a snails pace and if a note is slightly out play that part again, not from the begining of the piece, just that bar.
I think it helps in various ways, like bow control for instance. I like to read a piece then play it to see how close I am to the correct timing. If I hear it first, before reading it I find it a lot easier, but to me I feel its somehow cheating.
At this point, lessons are mostly driven by my own goals rather than any particular teaching progression, so I don't really have any need to work on anything "other than lesson pieces" -- whatever piece I want to work on in detail becomes a lesson piece. The things I'm working on outside of lessons are all for orchestras. So the question is sort of inverted for me: the ensemble music I have to play doesn't get into my lessons at all, the solo pieces I want to play get addressed in lessons.
Right now the two things I'm working on are: Bach Cello Suite No. 2 (viola transcription) and Clarke Viola Sonata. I'm planning to use the Prelude from the Bach suite and the first movement of the Clarke sonata in an audition a month from now. The audition asks for two contrasting pieces, so I'm doing one Baroque and one early 20th century. (Note: I'm working on the entire Bach suite, but only planning to use one movement in the audition. I'm only working on the first movement of the Clarke sonata for now, the second and third movements are more difficult.)
Challenges in the Bach: Being conscious of phrasing and varying articulation and tone color, to turn the endless stream of notes into a coherent and interesting musical picture. Playing triple and quadruple stops with good tone and without breaking the flow. Avoiding overplaying.
Challenges in the Clarke: Large dynamic contrasts requiring attention to bow distribution. Intonation with lots of half steps, large leaps, and uncommon intervals. Stretching and compressing the rhythm expressively while still respecting the written note values. Tone quality in very high positions.
I've been working on the Bach since March, and the Clarke since early July. I have most of the first movement of the Bach memorized, and I have the first two pages of the Clarke memorized. Most of the time is spent refining and building consistency: I could sight-read the majority of both pieces in tempo before I started really working on them.
Other than that, I've spent a little time on various virtual ensemble projects, and started on in-person orchestra music (our first rehearsal was Monday). For virtual ensembles, I've started working on George Chadwick's "Noel" (deadline is next week) and Helena Munktell's "Walpurgisfire" (deadline in late September). My regular orchestra is preparing Juan Diego Diaz's "Se fue Mendoza", the Schumann cello concerto, and Haydn's 103rd Symphony for a late-September concert.
I've been working on Albinoni Sonata IIa5, Op.2, nr.3 for the bowing.
I try to work on fast baroque détaché all the time - mainly I need to learn to use less bow. The rest is hand co-ordination.
I've bought pretty much all the Bach that Andrew Manze has published, for hints, but there's nothing quite like the Albinoni there, especially the triple-time movement.
So, you find using these to smooth out your bowing more beneficial than exercises written for bowing practice?
How do you pick a piece that is well suited to learning a playing “technique” you need to learn or brush up on, if it is not a piece written specifically for that purpose?
How can you spot a piece to use that would achieve that goal that is not an exercise, but an actual finished piece?
Well, a caveat I've expressed in the past has been, don't let studies and exercises keep you away from real music.
But also these studies are written with the inspiration of real pieces of music - they aren't really separate. Some of them are just cobbled together from thinly disguised pieces of music. Ultimately the music is the exercise. If in a piece you need a legato slur from the D to the G string, you don't need to run off to find a study: you can just concentrate on the measure where the problem is and analyse what's wrong with your technique by going over it slowly. This will actually teach you more than if you rely on a study's brute force to make you play something without thinking about what you are doing. Part of what you are learning is the eyes, the ears and the brain. The musical equivalent of a treadmill will prevent that.
As to recognition, intelligent use of a method can help, as a good method isolates each technique and grades it by difficulty. In the case of the ABRSM whose exam booklets offer 8 or 9 pieces all at the same grade, you can see motifs repeated in piece after piece at the same grade. I don't like Suzuki, but the same may be possible in that method. In ABRSM if I have difficulty with one piece, I look for the same technique in a different piece. Eventually you come to recognise what techniques exist and how to recognise them by sight wherever they occur. The old third finger to fourth finger on the next string up - major or minor 6, get the intonation right, anticipate the use of and right place for the pinky, is quite common in pieces at a certain level. (or do you shift and use 2nd and 3rd fingers?)
I think possibly also there's a problem with what we mean by "brushing up". What is suitable for Ray Chen is not suitable for a beginner and vice versa. Looking at master class videos won't help without interpretation of which bits are useful, and to do that you need to have heard yourself to know what you need. As beginners it's really our ears that need brushing up. That's half the battle. When I played that slur from the D to the G string, did I listen to it? Did I hear it? Am I going to repeat it better or just plough on?